It is a truly blessed time that any Muslim would be honored to participate in. Separation from worldly stresses and distractions to focus solely upon Allah; who could say no?
But what about the women?
Not only do married women and mothers have plenty of daily distractions to keep them away from I’tikaf (children and housework don’t provide a lot of free time) but single Muslim women also face many obstacles. For example, facilities like bathrooms, sleeping areas, and kitchen areas; in some very sad cases, the local masjid doesn’t even have a female prayer area.
However, despite these obstacles, some women have managed to perform I’tikaf and have learnt a few things on the way.
The biggest challenges usually consist of things outside of your control; a lot of masjids do not allow women to perform I’tikaf or their facilities are severely lacking, making simple things like a shower incredibly difficult. Most sisters can bear this with patience and see reward in the struggle.
Unfortunately, an even bigger challenge is to separate your mind from the life you have left behind. Whether it’s a husband, children, work, or parents, forgetting the responsibilities we have can be difficult. In our busy, hectic lives, we are not used to simply stopping and finding that time to reconnect with Allah and ourselves.
“Once in I’tikaf, the confinement and solitude can be difficult to get used to,” one sister explained. “It takes time to get used to that kind of silence, that reduced-to-zero chatter of the world around you.”
Why do it?
Considering how difficult it can be for a woman to perform I’tikaf, why do they even try? Women are not obliged to be in the masjid, so why bother?
One sister insisted on sitting I’tikaf because she felt the need to strengthen her soul and spiritual connection to Allah, and she is not alone. By separating ourselves from daily life, focusing completely on Allah, and removing ourselves from unproductive and time-wasting distractions, we gain a focus and appreciation that is nearly impossible in any other setting.
We often look back on Ramadan with regret – we remember the times we have wasted flicking through our phones, watching TV whilst waiting for iftar, or sleeping our way through taraaweeh time up to sahoor. But not in the masjid.
When performing I’tikaf, you are not only separate from these distractions, but you are also in a prime location to focus on more worship and more du’a. There is a very common productivity tip, and that is to create a setting around you that will help you easily achieve your goals. You want to do yoga in the morning? Set out the mat and clothes the night before. You want to drink more water? Carry a bottle around with you. You need to get more work done? Set up a home office away from the TV and distractions.
Being in the masjid is setting you up for success. You are in the perfect location to pray, there are Qur’ans for you to read, no housework to occupy you, no TV to distract you – it is the ideal environment for just you and Allah.
How it feels
The sense of achievement felt after such an experience is difficult to describe. A serenity overcomes you and life is in perspective. The stress at work or home? Not important. Your relationship with Allah? Primed and at the center of your thoughts and actions – SubhanAllah.
“Although adjusting to the solitude can be difficult, after a while that silence is amazing,” one sister says. “It enables you to take your concentration and focus to another level; you become more in tune with your inner voice and can begin to separate your voice from the whispers of temptation you’ve been hearing all year.”
Unfortunately, for some of us, I’tikaf is a dream, a fantasy. We long for the seclusion, but it is not written for us right now. But don’t lose heart. Allah has blessed us with families to care for and a mountain of opportunities for reward in these last 10 days.
But as well as that, seclusion for Allah is still possible from your own homes. There is a difference of opinion as to whether I’tikaf is valid when performed in your home, however, there is nothing wrong with you seeking solitude with your Creator once the children are asleep and your responsibilities are concluded for the night. There is still benefit in taking a time out, even if it is not I’tikaf.
Whether just for an hour or a few days, turn your phone off, shut down your laptop, and get down on your prayer mat in prostration to the One who knows the desire in your heart, the One who knows how much you long to be in the masjid. Open your Qur’an and soak in the words of your Lord. Conclude with du’as, opening your heart to the All-Knowing and communicate with Him.
Truly, you will find just this small amount of time an uplifting and spiritual experience, granted to make you feel like you have grasped every possible opportunity this Ramadan.
First published: June 2017